Friday, January 2, 2009

passion focused education

It is traditional that educational institutions define degrees, the major and the courses that are a part of that. Some allow for choice within the program, but for the most part what a person’s education is going to look like is determined by what the school offers. But both process and outcome change when we begin by asking certain questions. What is it that you really feel uniquely impassioned to pursue? What is it that your heart really wishes you could do? And then in every class you take, your passion is intentionally tied to that subject.

So in the world of counseling, for example, someone may be particularly interested in working with adoption. And so we ask the questions: What does the Old Testament have to do with adoption? What does church history have to do with adoption? What does preaching have to do with adoption? What does engaging our contemporary culture have to do with adoption? Now every class is overtly tied to the student’s particular passion, rather than just hoping that people somehow will connect the ideas they’re learning in school to their ultimate application. The very nature of the education, by identifying the passion and then having that passion be part of every educational conversation, allows for a sense of student connectedness, a sense that the teacher comes to help the student be all of who (s)he is, rather than the students having to figure out how to conform, so to speak, to what the professor is all about.

In some ways this ties in to student-centered learning, though in student-centered learning, it’s usually the teacher who’s still determining all of the goals and then trying to make them important for the student. But when a teacher’s priorities are to hear where the student is going and then to bring all of their expertise to best equip the student or move the student on to really live out that passion, that’s a recentering of education that provides a vital dimension of student-centered learning that really puts a professor in the position of being first of all a student of the student, learning about their needs, hopes, dreams, aspirations, and this will also cultivate better teachers.

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